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Dad, why are you a Republican?

Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James Grant Wilson, John Fiske and Stanley L. Klos. Six volumes, New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1887-1889 and 1999. Virtualology.com warns that these 19th Century biographies contain errors and bias. We rely on volunteers to edit the historic biographies on a continual basis. If you would like to edit this biography please submit a rewritten biography in text form . If acceptable, the new biography will be published above the 19th Century Appleton's Cyclopedia Biography citing the volunteer editor

 



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Abraham Lincoln

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Abraham Lincoln

26th President of the United States
16th under the US Constitution


Edited Appleton's American Image Copyright© 2001 by VirtualologyTM

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LINCOLN, Abraham, twenty-sixth president of the United States and sixteenth under the US Constitution, born in Hardin county, Kentucky, 12 February, 1809; died in Washington, D. C., 15 April, 1865. His earliest ancestor in America seems to have been Samuel Lincoln, of Norwich, England, who settled in Hingham, Mass., where he died, leaving a son, Mordecai, whose son of the same name removed to Monmouth, N. J., and thence to Berks County, Pa., dying there in 1735. He was a man of some property, which at his death was divided among his sons and daughters, one of whom, John Lincoln, having disposed of his land in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, established himself in Rockingham county, Va. The records of that county show that he was possessed of a valuable estate, which was divided among five sons, one of whom, named Abraham, emigrated to Kentucky about 1780.

At this time Daniel Boone was engaged in those labors and exploits in the new country of Kentucky that have rendered his name illustrious; and there is no doubt that Abraham Lincoln was induced by his friendship for Boone to give up what seems to have been an assured social position in Virginia and take his family to share with him the risks and hardships of life in the new territory. The families of Boone and Lincoln had been closely allied for many years. Several marriages had taken place between them, and their names occur in each other's wills as friends and executors.

The pioneer Lincoln, who took with him what for the time and place was a sufficient provision in money, the result of the sale of his property in Virginia, acquired by means of cash and land-warrants a large estate in Kentucky, as is shown by the records of Jefferson and Campbell Counties. About 1784 he was killed by Indians while working with his three sons--Mordee, Josiah, and Thomas--in clearing the forest. His widow removed after his death to Washington County, and there brought up her family. The two elder sons became reputable citizens, and the two daughters married in a decent condition of life. Thomas, the youngest son, seems to have been below the average of the family in enterprise and other qualities that command success. He learned the trade of a carpenter, and married, 12 June, 1806, Nancy Hanks, a niece of the man with whom he learned his trade. She is represented, by those who knew her at the time of her marriage, as a handsome young woman of twenty-three, of appearance and intellect superior to her lowly fortunes. The young couple began housekeeping with little means. Three children were born to them; the first, a girl, who grew to maturity, married, and died, leaving no children; the third a boy, who died in infancy ; the second was Abraham Lincoln.

Thomas Lincoln remained in Kentucky until 1816, when he resolved to remove to the still newer country of Indiana, and settled in a rich and fertile forest country near Little Pigeon creek, not far distant from the Ohio river. The family suffered from diseases incident to pioneer life, and Mrs. Lincoln died in 1818 at the age of thirty-five. Thomas Lincoln, while on a visit to Kentucky, married a worthy, industrious, and intelligent widow named Sarah Bush Johnston. She was a woman of admirable order and system in her habits, and brought to the home of the pioneer in the Indiana timber many of the comforts of civilized life. The neighborhood was one of the roughest. The president once said of it : "It was a wild region, with many bears and other wild animals still in the woods, and there were some schools, so called; but no qualification was ever required of a teacher beyond readin', writin', and cipherin' to the rule of three. If a straggler supposed to understand Latin happened to sojourn in the neighborhood, he was looked upon as a wizard. There was absolutely nothing to excite ambition for education." But in spite of this the boy Abraham made the best use of the limited opportunities afforded him, and learned all that the half-educated backwoods teachers could impart; and besides this he read over and over all the books he could find.

He practiced constantly the rules of arithmetic, which he had acquired at school, and began, even in his early childhood, to put in writing his recollections of what he had read and his impressions of what he saw about him. By the time he was nineteen years of age he had acquired a remarkably clear and serviceable handwriting, and showed sufficient business capacity to be entrusted with a cargo of farm products, which he took to New Orleans and sold.

In 1830 his father emigrated once more, to Macon county, Illinois. Lincoln had by this time attained his extraordinary stature of six feet four inches, and with it enormous muscular strength, which was at once put at the disposal of his father in building his cabin, clearing the field, and splitting from the walnut forests, which were plentiful in that county, the rails with which the farm was fenced. Thomas Lincoln, however, soon deserted this new home, his last migration being to Goose Nest Prairie, in Coles county, where he died in 1851, seventy-three years of age. In his last days he was tenderly cared for by his son.

Abraham Lincoln left his father's house as soon as the farm was fenced and cleared, hired himself to a man named Denton Offutt, in Sangamon County, assisted him to build a flat-boat, accompanied him to New Orleans on a trading voyage, and returned with him to New Salem, in Menard county, where Offutt opened a store for the sale of general merchandise. Little was accomplished in this way, and Lincoln employed his too abundant leisure in constant reading and study. He learned during this time the elements of English grammar, and made a beginning in the study of surveying and the principles of law. But the next year an Indian war began, occasioned by the return of Black Hawk with his bands of Sacs and Foxes from Iowa to Illinois.

Lincoln volunteered in a company raised in Sangamon county, and was immediately elected captain. His company was organized at Richland on 21 April, 1832; but his service in command of it was brief, for it was mustered out on 27 May. Lincoln immediately re-enlisted as a private, and served for several weeks in that capacity, being finally mustered out on 16 June, 1832, by Lieut. Robert Anderson, who afterward commanded Fort Sumter at the beginning of the civil war.

He returned home and began a hasty canvass for election to the legislature. His name had been announced in the spring before his enlistment; but now only ten days were left before the election, which took place in August. In spite of these disadvantages, he made a good race and was far from the foot of the poll. Although he was defeated, he gained the almost unanimous vote of his own neighborhood, New Salem giving him 277 votes against 3. He now began to look about him for employment, and for a time thought seriously of learning the trade of a blacksmith; but an opportunity presented itself to buy the only store in the settlement, which he did, giving his notes for the whole amount involved.

He was associated with an idle and dissolute partner, and the business soon went to wreck, leaving Lincoln burdened with a debt that it required several years of frugality and industry for him to meet; but it was finally paid in full. After this failure he devoted himself with the greatest earnestness and industry to the study of law. He was appointed postmaster of New Salem in 1833, an office that he held for three years. The emoluments of the place were very slight, but it gave him opportunities for reading. At the same time he was appointed deputy to John Calhoun, the county surveyor, and, his modest wants being, supplied by these two functions, he gave his remaining leisure unreservedly to the study of law and politics.

He was a candidate for the legislature in August, 1834, and was elected this time at the head of the list. He was re-elected in 1836, 1838, and 1840, after which he declined further election. After entering the legislature he did not return to New Salem, but, having by this time attained some proficiency in the law, he removed to Springfield, where he went into partnership with John T. Stuart, whose acquaintance he had begun in the Black Hawk war and continued at Vandalia. He took rank from the first among the leading members of the legislature. He was instrumental in having the state capital removed from Vandalia to Springfield, and during his eight years of service his ability, industry, and weight of character gained him such standing among his associates that in his last two terms he was the candidate of his party for the speakership of the house of representatives.

In 1846 he was elected to congress, his opponent being the Rev. Peter Cartwright. The most important congressional measure with which his name was associated during his single term of service was a scheme for the emancipation of the slaves in the District of Columbia, which in the prevailing temper of the time was refused consideration by congress. He was not a candidate for re-election, but for the first and only time in his life he applied for an executive appointment, the commissionership of the general land-office. The place was given to another man, but President Taylor's administration offered Mr. Lincoln the governorship of the territory of Oregon, which he declined.

Mr. Lincoln had by this time become the most influential exponent of the principles of the Whig party in Illinois and his services were in request in every campaign. After his return from congress he devoted himself with great assiduity and success to the practice of law, and speedily gained a commanding position at the bar. As he says himself, he was losing his interest in politics when the repeal of the Missouri Compromise aroused him again. The profound agitation of the question of slavery, which in 1854 followed the repeal of the Missouri Compromise, awakened all the energies of Lincoln's nature. He regarded this act, in which Senator Douglas was the most prominent agent of the reactionary party, as a gross breach of faith, and began at once a series of earnest political discussions which immediately placed him at the head of the party that, not only in Illinois but throughout the west, was speedily formed to protest against and oppose the throwing open of the territories to the encroachments of slavery.

The legislature elected in Illinois in the heat of this discussion contained a majority of members opposed to the policy of Douglas. The duty of selecting a senator in place of General Shields, whose term was dosing, devolved upon this legislature, and Mr. Lincoln was the unanimous choice of the Whig members. But they did not command a clear majority of the legislature. There were four members of Democratic antecedents who, while they were ardently opposed to the extension of slavery, were not willing to east their votes for a Whig candidate, and adhered tenaciously through several ballots to Lyman Trumbull, a Democrat of their own way of thinking. Lincoln, fearing that this dissension among the anti-slavery men might result in the election of a supporter of Douglas, urged his friends to go over in a body to the support of Trumbull, and his influence was sufficient to accomplish this result. Trumbull was elected, and for many years served the Republican cause in the senate with ability and zeal.

As soon as the Republican party became fully organized in the nation, embracing in its ranks the anti-slavery members of the old Whig and Democratic parties, Mr. Lincoln, by general consent, took his place at the head of the party in Illinois; and when, in 1858, Senator Douglas sought a re-election to the senate, the Republicans with one voice selected Mr. Lincoln as his antagonist. He had already made several speeches of remarkable eloquence and power against the pro-slavery reaction of which the Nebraska bill was the significant beginning, and when Mr. Douglas returned to Illinois to begin his canvass for the senate, he was challenged by Mr. Lincoln to a series of joint discussions.

The challenge was accepted, and the most remarkable oratorical combat the state has ever witnessed took place between them during the summer. Mr. Douglas defended his thesis of non-intervention with slavery in the territories (the doctrine known as "popular sovereignty," and derided as "squatter sovereignty") with remarkable adroitness and energy. The ground that Mr. Lincoln took was higher and bolder than had yet been assumed by any American statesman of his time. In the brief and sententious speech in which he accepted the championship of his party, before the Republican convention of 16 June, 1858, he uttered the following pregnant and prophetic words: "A house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe this government cannot endure permanently half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved; I do not expect the house to fall; but I do expect that it will cease to be divided. It will become all the one thing or all the other. Either the opponents of slavery will arrest the further spread of it and place it where the public mind shall rest in the belief that it is in course of ultimate extinction, or its advocates will push it forward until it shall become alike lawful in all the states, old as well as new, north as well as south."

This bold utterance excited the fears of his timid friends, and laid him open to the hackneyed and conventional attacks of the supporters of slavery; but throughout the contest, while he did not for an instant lower this lofty tone of opposition to slavery and hope of its extinction, he refused to be crowded by the fears of his friends or the denunciations of his enemies away from the strictly constitutional ground upon which his opposition was made. The debates between him and Senator Douglas aroused extraordinary interest throughout the state and the country. The men were perhaps equally matched in oratorical ability and adroitness in debate, but Lincoln's superiority in moral insight, and especially in farseeing political sagacity, soon became apparent. The most important and significant of the debates was that which took place at Freeport. Mr. Douglas had previously asked Mr. Lincoln a series of questions intended to embarrass him, which Lincoln without the slightest reserve answered by a categorical yes or no. At Freeport, Lincoln. taking his turn, inquired of Douglas whether the people of a territory could in any lawful way, against the wish of any citizen of the United States, exclude slavery from its limits prior to the formation of a state constitution. By his reply, intimating that slavery might be excluded by unfriendly territorial legislation, Douglas gained a momentary advantage in the anti-slavery region in which he spoke, but dealt a fatal blow to his popularity in the south, the result of which was seen two years afterward at the Charleston convention. The ground assumed by Senator Douglas was, in fact, utterly untenable, and Lincoln showed this in one of his terse sentences. " Judge Douglas holds," he said, "that a thing may lawfully be driven away from a place where it has a lawful right to go."

This debate established the reputation of Mr. Lincoln as one of the leading orators of the Republican party of the Union, and a speech that he delivered at Cooper Institute, in New York, on 27 February, 1860, in which he showed that the unbroken record of the founders of the republic was in favor of the restriction of slavery and against its extension, widened and confirmed his reputation; so that when the Republican convention came together in Chicago in May, 1860, he was nominated for the presidency on the third ballot, over William H. Seward, who was his principal competitor.

The Democratic convention, which met in Charleston, S. C., broke up after numerous fruitless balloting, and divided into two sections. The southern half, unable to trust Mr. Douglas with the interests of slavery after his Freeport speech, first adjourned to Richmond, but again joined the other half at Baltimore, where a second disruption took place, after which the southern half nominated John C. Breckinridge, of Kentucky, and the northern portion nominated Mr. Douglas. John Bell, of Tennessee, was nominated by the so-called Constitutional Union party.

Lincoln, therefore, supported by the entire anti-slavery sentiment of the north, gained an easy victory over the three other parties. The election took place on 6 November, and when the electoral college cast their votes Lincoln was found to have 180, Breckinridge 72, Bell 39, and Douglas 12. The popular vote stood: for Lincoln, 1,866,462; for Douglas, 1,375,157; for Breckinridge, 847,953; for Bell, 590,631.

The extreme partisans of slavery had not even waited for the election of Lincoln, to begin their preparations for an insurrection, and as soon as the result was declared a movement for separation was begun in South Carolina, and it carried along with her the states of Georgia, Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas. A provisional government, styled the "Confederate States of America," of which Jefferson Davis, of Mississippi, was made president, was promptly organized, and seized, with few exceptions, all the posts, arsenals, and public property of the United States within their limits. Confronted by this extraordinary crisis, Mr. Lincoln kept his own counsel, and made no public expression of his intentions or his policy until he was inaugurated on 4 March, 1861.

He called about him a cabinet of the most prominent members of the anti-slavery parties of the nation, giving no preference to any special faction. His secretary of state was William H. Seward, of New York, who had been his principal rival for the nomination, and whose eminence and abilities designated him as the leading member of the administration; the secretary of the treasury was Salmon P. Chase, of Ohio, whose pre-eminence in the west was as unquestioned as Seward's in the east ; of war, Simon Cameron, of Pennsylvania, the most influential politician of that state; of the navy, Gideon Welles, of Connecticut; of the interior, Caleb B. Smith, of Indiana: the border slave-states were represented in the government by Edward Bates, of Missouri, attorney-general, and Montgomery Blair, of Maryland, postmaster-general--both of them men of great distinction of character and high standing as lawyers. Seward, Smith, and Bates were of Whig antecedents; all the rest of Democratic. The cabinet underwent, in the course of Mr. Lincoln's term, the following modifications : Sec. Chase, after a brilliant administration of the finances, resigned in 1864 from personal reasons, and was succeeded by William P. Fessenden, of Maine ; Sec. Cameron left the war department at the close of the Russia, and his place was taken by Edwin M. Stanton, a war

Democrat of singular energy and vigor, and equal ability and devotion; Sec. Smith, accepting a judgeship, gave way to John P. Usher, of Indiana; Attorney-General Bates resigned in the last year of the administration, and was succeeded by James Speed, of Kentucky; and Postmaster-General Blair about the same time gave way to William Dennison, of Ohio.

In his inaugural address President Lincoln treated the acts of secession as a nullity. He declared the Union perpetual and inviolate, and announced with perfect firmness, though with the greatest moderation of speech and feeling, the intention of the government to maintain its authority and to hold the places under its jurisdiction. He made an elaborate and unanswerable argument against the legality as well as the justice of secession, and further showed, with convincing clearness, that peaceful secession was impossible. "Can aliens make treaties," he said, "easier than friends can make laws

Can treaties be more faithfully enforced between aliens than laws can among friends ? Suppose you go to war ; you cannot fight always, and when, after much loss on both sides and no gain on either, you cease fighting, the identical old questions as to terms of intercourse are again upon you." He pleaded for peace in a strain of equal tenderness and dignity, and in closing he said : " In your hands, my dissatisfied fellow-countrymen, and not in mine, is the momentous issue of civil war. The government will not assail you. You can have no conflict without being yourselves the aggressors. You have no oath registered in heaven to destroy the government, while I shall have a most solemn one to preserve, protect, and defend it." This speech profoundly affected the public opinion of the north; but in the excited state of sentiment that then controlled the south it naturally met only contempt and defiance in that section.

A few weeks later the inevitable war began, in an attack upon Fort Sumter by the secessionists of South Carolina under General G. T. Beauregard, and after a long bombardment the fort surrendered on 13 April, 1861. The president instantly called for a force of 75,000 three-months' militiamen, and three weeks later ordered the enlistment of 64,000 soldiers and 18,000 seamen for three years. He set on foot a blockade of the southern ports, and called congress together in special session, choosing for their day of meeting the 4th of July. The remaining states of the south rapidly arrayed themselves on one side or the other; all except Maryland, Kentucky, and Missouri were drawn into the secession movement, and the western part of Virginia, adhering to the Union, under the name of West Virginia, separated itself from that ancient commonwealth.

The first important battle of the war took place at Bull Run, near Manassas station, Va., 21 July, 1861, and resulted in the defeat of the National troops under General Irwin McDowell by a somewhat larger force of the Confederates under Generals Joseph E. Johnston and Beauregard. Though the loss in killed and wounded was not great, and was about the same on both sides, the victory was still one of the utmost importance for the Confederates, and gave them a great increase of prestige on both sides of the Atlantic. They were not, however, able to pursue their advantage. The summer was passed in enlisting, drilling, and equipping a formidable National army on the banks of the Potomac, which was given in charge of General George B. McClellan, a young officer who had distinguished himself by a successful campaign in western Virginia.

In spite of the urgency of the government, which was increased by the earnestness of the people and their representatives in congress, General McClellan made no advance until the spring of 1862, when General Johnston, in command of the Confederate army, evacuated the position which, with about 45,000 men, he had held during the autumn and winter against the Army of the Potomac, amounting to about 177,.000 effectives. General McClellan then transferred his army to the peninsula between the James and York rivers. Although there was but a force of 16,000 opposed to him when he landed, he spent a month before the works at Yorktown, and when he was prepared to open fire upon them they were evacuated, and General Johnston retreated to the neighborhood of Richmond.

The battle of Seven Pines, in which the Confederates, successful in their first attack, were afterward repelled, was fought on 31 May, 1862. Johnston was wounded, and the command devolved upon General Robert E. Lee, who in the latter part of June moved out from his position before Richmond and attacked McClellan's right flank, under General Fitz-John Porter, at Gaines's Mills, north of the Chickahominy. Porter, with one corps, resisted the Confederate army all day with great gallantry, unassisted by the main army under McClellan, but withdrew in the evening, and McClellan at once began his retreat to the James river. Several battles were fought on the way, in which the Confederates were checked; but the retreat continued until the National army reached the James. Taking position at Malvern Hill, they inflicted a severe defeat upon General Lee, but were immediately after withdrawn by General McClellan to Harrison's Landing. Here, as at other times during his career, McClellan labored under a strange hallucination as to the numbers of his enemy. He generally estimated them at not less than twice their actual force, and continually re-preached the president for not giving him impossible re-enforcements to equal the imaginary numbers he thought opposed to him. In point of fact, his army was always in excess of that of Johnston or Lee.

The continual disasters in the east were somewhat compensated by a series of brilliant successes in the west. In February, 1862, General Ulysses S. Grant had captured the Confederate forts Henry and Donelson, thus laying open the great strategic lines of the Tennessee and Cumberland rivers, and, moving southward, had fought (6 and 7 April) the battle of Shiloh, with unfavorable results on the first day, which were turned to a victory on the second with the aid of General D. C. Buell and his army, a battle in which General Albert Sidney Johnston was killed and the Confederate invasion of Kentucky baffled.

Farragut, on 24: April, had won a brilliant naval victory over the twin forts above the mouths of the Mississippi, which resulted in the capture of New Orleans and the control of the lower Mississippi. After General McClellan's retreat to the James, the president visited the army at Harrison's Landing (8 July), and, after careful consultations with the corps commanders, became convinced that in the actual disposition of the officers and the troops there was no reasonable expectation of a successful movement upon Richmond by McClellan. An order was therefore issued for the withdrawal of the army from the James, and, General Halleck having been appointed general-in-chief, General Pope was sent forward from Washington with a small force to delay the Confederate army under General Lee until the Army of the Potomac could arrive and be concentrated to support him. McClellan's movements, however, were so deliberate, and there was such a want of confidence and co-operation on the part of his officers toward General Pope, that the National army met with a decisive defeat on the same battlefield of Bull Run that saw their first disaster. General Pope, disheartened by the lack of sympathy and support that he discerned among the most eminent officers of the Army of the Potomac, retreated upon Washington, and General McClellan, who seemed to be the only officer under whom the army was at the moment willing to serve, was placed in command of it. General Lee, elated with his success, crossed the Potomac, but was met by the army under McClellan at South Mountain and Antietam, and after two days of great slaughter Lee retreated into Virginia.

President Lincoln availed himself of this occasion to give effect to a resolve that had long been maturing in his mind in an act the most momentous in its significance and results that the century has witnessed. For a year and a half he had been subjected to urgent solicitations from the two great political parties of the country, the one side appealing to him to take decided measures against slavery, and the other imploring him to pursue a conservative course in regard to that institution. His deep-rooted detestation of the system of domestic servitude was no secret to any one; but his reverence for the law, his regard for vested interests, and his anxiety to do nothing that should alienate any considerable body of the supporters of the government, had thus far induced him to pursue a middle course between the two extremes. Meanwhile the power of events had compelled a steady progress in the direction of emancipation. So early as August, 1861, congress had passed an act to confiscate the rights of slave-owners in slaves employed in a manner hostile to the Union, and General Fremont had seized the occasion of the passage of this act to issue an order to confiscate and emancipate the slaves of rebels in the state of Missouri. President Lincoln, unwilling, in a matter of such transcendent importance, to leave the initiative to any subordinate, revoked this order, and directed General Fremont to modify it so that it should conform to the confiscation act of congress.

This excited violent opposition to the president among the radical anti-slavery men in Missouri and elsewhere, while it drew upon him the scarcely less embarrassing importunities of the conservatives, who wished him to take still more decided ground against the radicals. On 6 March, 1862, he sent a special message to congress inclosing a resolution, the passage of which he recommended, to offer pecuniary aid from the general government to states that should adopt the gradual abolishment of slavery. This resolution was promptly passed by congress; but in none of the slave-states was public sentiment sufficiently advanced to permit them to avail themselves of it. The next month, however, congress passed a law emancipating slaves in the District of Columbia, with compensation to owners, and President Lincoln had the happiness of affixing his signature to a measure that he had many years before, while a representative from Illinois, fruitlessly urged upon the notice of congress. As the war went on, wherever the National armies penetrated there was a constant stream of fugitive slaves from the adjoining regions, and the commanders of each department treated the complicated questions arising from this body of "contra-bands," as they came to be called, in their camps, according to their own judgment of the necessities or the expediencies of each case, a discretion which the president thought best to tolerate. But on 9 May, 1862, General David Hunter, an intimate and esteemed friend of Mr. Lincoln's, saw proper, without consultation with him, to issue a military order declaring all persons theretofore held as slaves in Georgia, Florida, and South Carolina forever free. The president, as soon as he received this order, issued a proclamation declaring it void, and reserving to himself the decision of the question whether it was competent for him, as commander-in-chief of the army and navy, to declare the slaves of any state or states free, and whether at any time or in any case it should have become a necessity indispensable to the maintenance of the govern-merit to exercise such supposed power, and prohibiting to commanders in the field the decision of such questions. But he added in his proclamation a significant warning and appeal to the slave-holding states, urging once more upon them the policy of emancipation by state action. "I do not argue," he said; "I beseech you to make the argument for yourselves. You cannot, if you would, be blind to the signs of the times. I beg of you a calm and enlarged consideration of them, ranging, if it may be, far above personal and partisan politics. This proposal makes common cause for a common object, casting no reproaches upon any .... Will you not embrace it? So much good has not been done, by one effort, in all past time, as in the providence of God it is now your high privilege to do. Nay the vast future not have cause to la-merit that you have neglected it."

He had several times endeavored to bring this proposition before the members of congress from the loyal slave-holding states, and on 12 July he invited them to meet him at the executive mansion, and submitted to them a powerful and urgent appeal to induce their states to adopt the policy of compensated emancipation. He told them, without reproach or complaint, that he believed that if they had all voted for the resolution in the gradual emancipation message of the preceding March, the war would now have been substantially ended, and that the plan therein proposed was still one of the most potent and swift means of ending it. "Let the states," he said, "which are in rebellion see definitely and certainly that in no event will the states you represent ever join their proposed confederacy, and they cannot much longer maintain the contest." While urging this policy upon the conservatives, and while resolved in his own mind upon emancipation by decree as a last resource, he was the subject of vehement attacks from the more radical anti-slavery supporters of the government, to which he replied with unfailing moderation and good temper. Although in July he had resolved upon his course, and had read to his cabinet a draft of a proclamation of emancipation which he had then laid aside for a more fitting occasion (on the suggestion from Mr. Seward that its issue in the disastrous condition of our military affairs would be interpreted as a sign of desperation), he met the reproaches of the radical Republicans, the entreaties of visiting delegations, and the persuasions of his eager friends with arguments showing both sides of the question of which they persisted in seeing only one.

To Horace Greeley, on 22 Aug., Mr. Lincoln said: "My paramount object is to save the Union, and not either to save or destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave, I would do it; if I could save it by freeing all the slaves, I would do it; and if I could do it by freeing some and leaving others alone, I would also do that." And even so late as 13 Sept. he said to a delegation of a religious society, who were urging immediate ac ton "I do not want. to issue a document that the whole world will see must necessarily be inoperative, like the pope's bull against the comet . I view this matter as a practical war measure, to be decided on according to the advantages or disadvantages it may offer to the suppression of the rebellion." Still, he assured them that he had not decided against a proclamation of liberty to the slaves, but that the matter occupied his deepest thoughts.

The retreat of Lee from Maryland after his defeat at Antietam seemed to the president to afford a proper occasion for the execution of his long-matured resolve, and on 22 Sept. he issued his preliminary proclamation, giving notice to the states in rebellion that, on 1 Jan., 1863, all persons held as slaves within any state or designated part of a state, the people where of should then be in rebellion against the United States, should be then, thence-forward, and forever free. When congress came together on 1 Dec. he urged them to, supplement what had already been done by constitutional action, concluding his message with this impassioned appeal "Fellow-citizens, we cannot escape history. We of this congress and this administration will be remembered in spite of ourselves. No personal significance or insignificance can spare one or another of us. The fiery trial through which we pass will light us down in honor or dishonor to the latest generation. We --even we here--hold the power and bear the responsibility. In giving freedom to the slave, we assure freedom to the free--honorable alike in what we give and what we preserve. We shall nobly save, or meanly lose, the last, best hope of earth. Other means may succeed; this could not fail. The way is plain, peaceful, generous, just--a way which, if followed, the world will forever applaud, and God must forever bless."

It was hardly to be expected, however, that any action would be taken by congress before the lapse of the hundred days that the president had left between his warning and its execution. On 1 Jan., 1863, the final proclamation of emancipation was issued. It recited the preliminary document, and then designated the states in rebellion against the United States. They were Arkansas, Texas, a part of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia, excepting certain counties. The proclamation then continued "I do order and declare that all persons held as slaves within said designated states and parts of states are, and henceforward shall be,” free" and that the executive government of the United States, including the military and naval authorities thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of said persons."

The criticisms and forebodings of the opponents of emancipation had well-nigh been exhausted during the previous three months, and the definitive proclamation was received with general enthusiasm throughout the loyal states. The dissatisfaction with which this important measure was regarded in the border states gradually died away, as did also the opposition in conservative quarters to the enlistment of Negro soldiers. Their good conduct, their quick submission to discipline, and their excellent behavior in several battles, rapidly made an end of the prejudice against them; and when, in the winter session of congress of 1863-'4, Mr. Lincoln again urged upon the attention of that body the passage of a constitutional amendment abolishing slavery, his proposition met with the concurrence of a majority of congress, though it failed of the necessary two-third vote in the house of representatives.

During the following year, however, public opinion made rapid progress, and the influence of the president with congress was largely increased after his triumphant re-election. In his annual message of 6 Dec., 1864, he once more pleaded, this time with irresistible force, in favor of constitutional emancipation in all the states. As there had been much controversy during the year in regard to the president's anti-slavery convictions, and the suggestion had been made in many quarters that, for the sake of peace, he might be induced to withdraw the proclamation, he repeated the declaration made the year before: "While I remain in my present position I shall not attempt to retract or modify the emancipation proclamation; nor shall I return to slavery any person who is free by the terms of that proclamation or by any of the acts of congress. If the people should, by whatever mode or means, make it an executive duty to re-enslave such persons, another, and not I, must be then' instrument to perform it."

This time congress acted with alacrity, and on 31 Jan., 1865, proposed to the states the 13th amendment to the constitution, providing that neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime, whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction. The states rapidly adopted the amendment by the action of their legislatures, and the president was especially pleased that his own state of Illinois led the van, having passed the necessary resolution within twenty-four hours. Before the year ended twenty-seven of the thirty-six states (being the necessary three fourths) had ratified the amendment, and President Johnson, on 18 Dec., 1865, officially proclaimed its adoption.

While the energies of the government and of the people were most strenuously occupied with the war and the questions immediately concerning it, the four years of Mr. Lincoln's administration had their full share of complicated and difficult questions of domestic and foreign concern. The interior and post-office departments made great progress in developing the means of communication throughout the country. Mr. Chase, as secretary of the treasury, performed, with prodigious ability and remarkable success, the enormous duties devolving upon him of providing funds to supply the army at an expense amounting at certain periods to $3,000,000 a day; and Mr. Seward, in charge of the state department, held at bay the suppressed hostility of European nations. Of all his cabinet, the president sustained with Mr. Seward relations of the closest intimacy, and for that reason, perhaps, shared more directly in the labors of his department. He revised the first draft of most of Seward's important dispatches, and changed and amended their language with remarkable wisdom and skill. He was careful to avoid all sources of controversy or ill-feeling with foreign nations, and when they occurred he did his best to settle them in the interests of peace, without a sacrifice of national dignity. At the end of the year 1861 the friendly relations between England and the United States were seriously threatened by the capture of the Confederate envoys, Mason and Slidell, on board a British merchant-ship.

Public sentiment approved the capture, and, as far as could be judged by every manifestation in the press and in congress, was in favor of retaining the prisoners and defiantly refusing the demand of England for their return. But when the president, after mature deliberation, decided that the capture was against American precedents, and directed their return to British custody, the second thought of the country was with him. His prudence and moderation were also conspicuously displayed in his treatment of the question of the invasion of Mexico by France, and the establishment by military power of the emperor Maximilian in that country. Accepting as genuine the protestations of the emperor of the French, that he intended no interference with tile will of the people of Mexico, he took no measures unfriendly to France or the empire, except those involved in the maintenance of unbroken friendship with the republican government under President Juarez, a proceeding that, although severely criticized by the more ardent spirits in congress, ended, after the president's death, in the triumph of the National party in Mexico and the downfall of the invaders. He left no doubt, however, at any time, in regard to his own conviction that "the safety of the people of the United States and the cheerful destiny to which they aspire are intimately dependent upon the maintenance of free republican institutions throughout Mexico." He dealt in a sterner spirit with the proposition for foreign mediation that the emperor of the French, after seeking in vain the concurrence of other European powers, at last presented singly at the beginning of 1863. This proposition, under "the orders of the president”, was declined by Mr. Seward on 6 Feb., in a dispatch of remarkable ability and dignity, which put an end to all discussion of overtures of intervention from European powers. The diplomatic relations with England were exceedingly strained at several periods during the war. The building and fitting out of Confederate cruisers in English ports, and their escape, after their construction and its purpose had been made known by the American minister, more than once brought the two nations to the verge of war; but the moderation with which the claims of the United States were made by Mr. Lincoln, the energy and ability displayed by Sec. Seward and by Mr. Charles Francis Adams in presenting these claims, and, it must now be recognized, tile candor and honesty with which the matter was treated by Earl Russell, the British minister for foreign affairs, saved the two countries from that irreparable disaster: and the British government at last took such measures as were necessary to put an end to this indirect war from the shores of England upon American commerce.

In the course of two years the war attained such proportions that volunteering was no longer a sufficient resource to keep the army, consisting at that time of nearly a million men, at its full fighting strength. Congress therefore authorized, and the departments executed, a scheme of enrolment and draft of the arms-bearing population of the loyal states. Violent opposition arose to this measure in many parts of the country, which was stimulated by the speeches of orators of the opposition, and led, in many instances, to serious breaches of the public peace. A frightful riot, beginning among the foreign population of New York, kept that city in disorder and terror for three days in July, 1863. But the riots were suppressed, the disturbances quieted at last, and the draft was executed throughout the country. Clement L. Vallandigham, of Ohio, one of the most eloquent and influential orators of the Democratic party, was arrested in Ohio by General Burnside for his violent public utterances in opposition to the war, tried by a military court, and sentenced to imprisonment (luring the continuance of the war. The president changed his sentence to that of transportation within the lines of the rebellion. These proceedings merit among his party in Ohio, who, by way of challenge to the government, nominated him for governor of that state. A committee of its prominent politicians demanded from the president his restoration to his political rights, and a correspondence took place between them and the president, in which the rights and powers of the government in case of rebellion were set forth by him with great lucidity and force. His letters exercised an important influence in the political discussions of the year, and Mr. Vallandigham was defeated in his candidacy by John Brough by a majority of 100,000 votes.

The war still continued at a rate that appears rapid enough in retrospect, but seemed slow to the eager spirits watching its course. The disasters of the Army of the Potomac did not end with the removal of General McClellan, which took place in November. 1862, as a consequence of his persistent delay in pursuing Lee's retreating army after the battle of Antietam. General Burnside, who succeeded him, suffered a humiliating defeat in his attack upon the entrenched position of the Confederates at Fredericksburg. General Hooker, who next took command, after opening his campaign by crossing the Rapidan in a march of extraordinary brilliancy, was defeated at Chancellorsville, in a battle where both sides lost severely, and then retired again north of the river. General Lee, leaving the National army on his right flank, crossed the Potomac, and Hooker having, at his own request, been relieved and succeeded by General Meade, the two armies met in a three days' battle at Gettysburg, Pa., where General Lee sustained a decisive defeat, and was driven back into Virginia. His flight from Gettysburg began on the evening of the 4th of July, a day that in this year doubled its luster as a historic anniversary. For on this day Vicksburg, the most important Confederate stronghold in the west, surrendered to General Grant. He had spent the early months of 1863 in successive attempts to take that fortress, all of which had failed; but on the last day of April he crossed the river at Grand Gulf, and within a few days fought the successful battles of Port Gibson, Raymond, Jackson, Champion Hills, and the Big Black river, and shut up the army of Pemberton in close siege in the city of Vicksburg, which he finally captured with about 30,000 men on the 4th of July.

The speech that Mr. Lincoln delivered at the dedication of the National cemetery on the battlefield of Gettysburg, 19 Nov., 1863, was at once recognized as the philosophy in brief of the whole great struggle, and has already become classic. There are slightly differing versions the one that is here given is a literal transcript of the speech as he afterward wrote it out for a fair in Baltimore :

"Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting-place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate--we cannot consecrate--we cannot hallow--this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember, what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us--that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion --that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain--that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom--and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."

Continued on Page Two

Edited Appletons Encyclopedia, Copyright © 2001 VirtualologyTM

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